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Success stories Basil's leap: from the racetrack to jumping triumph

10th May 2024
Sarah and Basil

Written by Sarah Smith

Bombay Basil, known at home as Basil, started his racing career in Ireland before joining Tracey Barfoot-Saunt’s Gloucestershire stable. Despite his underwhelming racing career, he caught the eye of Nicky Florence, whom I had purchased two of my previous horses from. She told me he looked very 'sweet' and that I should try him.

Despite being older than I preferred (at seven), smaller than I had anticipated (at only 15.3hh) and scheduled to race the next day (so rather ‘on his toes’), Basil's potential shone through during our trial, and so I decided to take him on. This would be a new challenge for me too, retraining a horse straight out of racing when normally I buy youngsters and bring them on.

Transitioning from the track to a new life wasn't easy. Basil's exuberance and love for work quickly became clear, but his boundless energy and quirky habits presented challenges. I had originally planned to give him some time in the field to decompress but those plans changed quickly as he made a perfect oval sized track in the field and wouldn’t stop racing around!

Instead, we started his retraining straight away under the watchful eye of Jason Hobbs, Basil was ridden by his groom Cath Fear. After a couple of months of hard work, we headed off to our first unaffiliated showjumping show. Despite getting wound up by the loudspeakers before entering the ring, he focussed up and made it around both of his classes.

Basil thrives on his work, but I have never been able to get him tired out, so we focused on training that would make his brain work. We continued to do new exercises at home and go out to small shows until registering him with British Showjumping, where he has gone from strength to strength.

In his 18 months of jumping (he has had time off due to self-inflicted injuries!) he was now won well over £1,000 competitively at 1.05m and 1.10m, including placing third at the RoR BS Showjumping Championships at Stoneleigh. He is a very careful horse despite throwing the odd ‘interesting’ shape while jumping, and he can have an unusual rhythm to a fence, but he gets the job done and he just loves it.

When I get to a competition, I let the ramp down on the lorry and can’t let him see me, as when he does, he likes to show off his dancing skills and can’t keep his feet still, all whilst whinnying at me to hurry up. Once I’m on board away we go!

Looking ahead, I plan to try a bit of eventing with him, embracing his energetic nature and love for competition (we’ll just get around the dressage!).

While he may be high maintenance, have a dislike for solitude and a penchant for spirited displays, the rewards of riding such a passionate and determined horse far outweigh the challenges. I am lucky to have Basil in livery at Badminton with Christina Hood who has a great understanding of thoroughbreds and gives him all the individual care he needs.

As Basil continues to evolve and grow in strength and skill, I am really looking forward to the next chapter of our partnership, filled with exciting challenges and rewarding triumphs.

Find out more about the competitions available to RoR members. We run competitions at all levels, across a multitude of disciplines, so whether you are just starting out on your journey, or are well underway, there is something for you.

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